SEATTLE – Washingtonians soon will have a chance to change their health coverage, and a few tips can help folks pick the best plan for themselves or their family.
About 240,000 Washingtonians who aren’t covered through their employer get insurance through the state health exchange, where financial help is available to pay premiums. The open enrollment for the exchange is Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer, employer and individual, at UnitedHealthcare, said people should keep next year’s plans in mind when choosing their coverage.
“Anticipate what your expenses are for next year,” she said. “So, are you anticipating you’re going to need to have a certain procedure, or you’ve recently been diagnosed with a specific condition? Or maybe you’re planning to expand your family.”
The Medicare open-enrollment period is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Randall said people on Medicare need to consider a separate, prescription drug or “Part D” program and a Medicare Advantage or supplement plan for additional benefits, such as prescription drugs, vision and dental coverage.
Nationwide, about 180 million Americans get their insurance through an employer-sponsored plan. Randall said employers typically set aside two to three weeks for open enrollment at the end of the year. She said people should think about mental-health coverage as well.
“We have seen an increased interest in mental-health needs lately, so that’s another important thing to check on,” she said. “Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program, and does the medical plan benefits that they’re offering have the mental health coverage that you’re looking for?”
Randall also noted that virtual care is becoming a greater priority for some people.
“Those visits are designed really to be for specific conditions – convenience care, sometimes the maintenance of chronic conditions – and often are more affordable, as well,” she said.
She advised people to look into the wellness programs that health plans offer, and any specialty benefits. She added that it’s important to understand the terminology – premium, deductible, copay and others – and said UnitedHealthcare offers a guide to these terms on its website.
Featured photo: Employers decide their own open-enrollment windows for health insurance plans, typically starting in September. (Andrey/Adobe Stock)